Along with setting, our residents are the most important aspect of a settlement. This includes the species and their collective dispositions, leaders and others in power or exerting influence, and whether everyone is segregated into their own neighborhoods, or intermingled.
Which Species Are Here?
We should decide which species are present in our settlement and in what percentages. Someone is a majority. There’s a tendency in fantasy for that to almost always be the humans, unless another species originated the town. In modern times, a melting pot is increasingly common, and with travel easy in SF, a mix seems more plausible. In less advanced times, as is often the case in fantasy, with less travel, each settlement or region will be more homogenous. That’s believable but a little restrictive. Perhaps we should have a few well-visited settlements that run counter to this assumption. If you choose one, select a politically neutral city along a trade route, rather than an out-of-the-way settlement that’s also a hotbed of war, where strangers might not be welcome. This place is also more likely to be a city due to these factors. A port that lies on a continent edge, so that visitors from this land mass and others arrive here, is a good candidate, with visitors not necessarily moving on to other settlements.
Consider the nearby land features. In fantasy, elves go with forests and dwarves with mountains or hills, for example. A settlement near either feature with a native population is significantly more likely to have that species living in the settlement. However, with their homeland so near, they may not. If there’s no such land feature near, then why would they be here long term? They likely wouldn’t be if truly attached to their native habitats. We can invent species that aren’t so caught up in their origins. Why can’t a dwarf be sick of living underground? He can be, but would enough of them feel that way as to live here? What is it about this place that draws them? A good reason is encouraged. Perhaps there’s work to be done cutting stone. Maybe tunnels are needed. Can they create a home away from home?
In SF, travelers get around a lot and might find habitats on other worlds which differ only somewhat from their home. This gives them enough of what they grew up with while providing something new. Consider that in artificial environments like ships or vacuum settlements, the climate control can be set to accommodate the species residing there—or purposely not set for them by those who are indifferent or cruel, like our villains.
With multiple species in a democracy, we might have an elf be president with a human for vice president, for example. In a hereditary monarchy, we may not have such variation, but who’s to say that an elven ruler doesn’t have some human in their ancestry? When this sort of thing is included, contempt for ‘half-bloods’ may surface, where that person is considered bad by both sides, but some societies might even insist the ruler be such a half-blood (to represent everyone). Strive for variety among your settlements and sovereign powers.
The military might also have people of different species at different ranks. Restaurants can certainly be elven, dwarven, or whatever. Shops can cater to a niche or everyone, whether this is clothing or weaponry. Why can’t the humans fancy elven clothes and buy some outright or just have human clothes influenced by other species? Integration has its advantages for making our world more believable.
As an example, let’s take Jai, a human character. Maybe she fancies elven styles for aesthetic reasons and is considered to have high ambitions by her peers, who misunderstand her style choices because they like the idea she has a big ego. Maybe Jai spends a lot of time with dwarves and swears like one, or uses their expressions. Maybe she’s considered a dwarven sympathizer when the dwarves have pressing political issues that are causing tension. Jai could love dragons and get herself an apprenticeship to one that can shape shift, so she’s assumed to have access to all sorts of powerful items or information, which places her in danger.
To integrate species, we might have to rethink how they get along, and this can change from one locale to another, which also adds variety. We can have a traditionally segregated continent, and a more integrated one elsewhere. This can seem like a radical departure from expectations, but this is a good thing. It’s also one reason to invent our own species—we’re not beholden to anyone else’s ideas. Despite this, there will probably still be settlements that are predominantly one species and which are preferred that way by the founders.
Decide how each of your world’s species is welcomed and viewed in this settlement.